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A solitary strike from Miroslav Klose was enough for Germany to get the perfect start to their Euro 2012 qualifying campaign, against a spirited Belgium outfit.
Bayern Munich’s Daniel Van Buyten was caught in possession by club teammate Thomas Muller, the ball was then squared to an unmarked Klose, who slotted home with ease in the 51st minute.
Klose, 31, hinted earlier in the week that he could continue up until the 2014 World Cup and you’d be hard pressed to argue with that, considering how important he is as the focal point of this fluid German team.
Germany didn’t have it all their own way though. For much of the first half, Belgium dealt expertly with the highly praised German front four, restricting them to long-range efforts with Thomas Vermaelen and Vincent Kompany nullifying any aerial threat.
In fact, the best chance in the first half fell to Moussa Dembele, whose venomous shot was well saved by Manuel Neuer as it could have easily bounced over the Schalke keeper. Eden Hazard also went a sensational run that beat at least 4 defenders, reinforcing why he’s highly touted by some elite European clubs.
Manager Joachim Löw will be happy with their second half performance as Germany finally took hold on the midfield battle, as Bastian Schweinstiger and Sami Khedira picked up from a slow start and dominated. This was Germany’s first competitive game since losing to Spain in the World Cup semi-final and they will be pleased to get 3 points in a tough away game at the King Baudouin Stadium.
Belgium often frustrated the Germans early in the game. In particular Everton’s Marouane Fellaini became difficult to track (despite his huge mane of hair) shifting between a support striker for Romelu Lukaku and helping the defence out when Germany were on the offensive. A typical box-to-box performance by the 6ft 5 midfielder.
Unfortunately for George Leekens’ side, their early pressure didn’t amount to much. Anderlecht’s wonderkid Lukaku was isolated up front on his own in the 4-1-4-1 formation and at times edged into offside positions. Leekens’ youth policy, in his first game as coach, didn’t pay dividends here but there was enough promise to suggest this team isn’t far away from excelling.
Suggestions that Germany weren’t yet near full fitness weren’t founded entirely, with only World Cup star Mesut Ozil looking slightly jaded at times, but maybe that’s down to his supremely high standards. Thomas Muller on the other hand looked comfortable in possession and gave the Belgium defence some real problems. His highlight was a lovely off the ball run with a backheel to Ozil, who blazed it over.
After a superb end-to-end first half, following a pattern of German possession and Belgium on the break, the game was killed off by Klose’s goal. Germany coasted to a win, made even easier when Leekens made his substitutions, taking off the only players who provided a threat.
Germany’s next fixture in Group A is at home to Azerbaijan, managed by former coach Bertie Vogts, whilst Belgium face a tough away trip in Turkey, their main rivals for a play-off spot it appears. Turkey top Group A after a convincing 3-0 away win in Kazakhstan.
Belgium (4-1-4-1) Bailly, Alderweireld, van Buyten, Kompany, Vermaelen, Vertonghen, Simons (Vossen 83′), Fellaini, Hazard (Defour 73′), Dembelé, Lukaku (Benteke 73′)
Subs not used: Gillet, Ciman, Deschacht, Witsel
Manager: George Leekens
Germany (4-2-3-1) Neuer, Lahm, Mertesacker, Badstuber, Jansen (Westermann 45′), Schweinsteiger, Khedira, Müller, Özil (Cacau 88′), Podolski (Kroos 70), Klose
Subs not used: Wiese, Träsch, Marin, Gomez
Manager: Joachim Löw
King Baudouin Stadium, Attendance – 47,000
Referee – Terje Hauge (NOR) Assistants – Kim Thomas Haglund (NOR) Frank Andras (NOR)
Man of Match: Miroslav Klose